Are employers ignoring the science behind obesity?

Some are placing the onus on workers to take charge of their weight loss

Are employers ignoring the science behind obesity?

Employers, healthcare professionals, and people suffering from obesity can’t seem to agree on how to assess and manage the condition and how to extend support, a new report from Obesity Canada suggests

In a study featured in the journal ‘Clinical Obesity,’ the majority of employers surveyed (77%) believe their organization’s wellness programs are helping employees successfully manage their weight. In contrast, only a third (32%) of people suffering from obesity agree.

Moreover, employers placed the onus on workers to take charge of their health:

  • 47% said workers have control over their own body weight.
  • 63% said workers can successfully manage their weight if they are determined.

But healthcare professionals take a different view: 94% consider obesity to be a serious chronic illness no different from other life-threatening conditions like depression or stroke. Experts also recommend diet (63%) and exercise (50%) to be effective solutions.

READ MORE: Should obesity be a 'protected class' at work?

Another point of contention is whether obese workers lack the motivation to address their weight issues head on. Four in five workers (82%) say they actively engage in weight management solutions, yet healthcare experts (72%) and employers (65%) are convinced patients need a little more push.

“The current science tells us that obesity is a chronic disease just like diabetes, heart disease or cancer,” said lead author Dr. Arya M. Sharma. “And yet we are in effect still telling people who have it that they did this to themselves, and that they don’t deserve to be supported.”

“We are talking about a chronic disease that affects 26% of Canadian adults — more than cancer (2.5%), diabetes (7%), heart disease (8.5%) and high blood pressure (20%),” said Dr. Sharma, who also serves as scientific director of Obesity Canada.

“The disparity between how well these conditions are supported compared with obesity should be a wake-up call to all three surveyed groups.”

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